Jewel-colored and acrobatic, dragonflies capture the attention with their whizzing flight and have long inspired art, poetry and myth. These flying insects are characterized by their long slender bodies, often brilliant colors, gossamer-like wings, and large compound eyes. (1)
From Japanese folklore to Native American mythology, the dragonfly’s ethereal beauty is a source of wonder and reverence. In modern times, these flashy insects are quite often used as motifs in art and fashion. Despite its seemingly ubiquitous impact, though, the dragonfly is actually experiencing a sharp population decline on account of the disappearance of wetland habitats around the globe. (2)
Whether the dragonfly’s vibrant body and frenzied flight had enchanted you, or whether you are simply wondering what can be learned from a recent encounter with one of these fascinating insects, read on to discover the unique symbolism, folklore traditions, and virtues connected with the dragonfly!
Table of contents
- Dragonfly Symbolism and meaning
- Dragonfly Native American Symbolism
- Dragonfly Christianity Symbolism
- Dragonfly Celtic Symbolism
- Dragonfly in Dreams
- Dragonfly Encounters and Omens
- Dragonflys’ Mythology and Folklore
- Dragonfly Spirit Animal
- Dragonfly Totem Animal
- Dragonfly Power Animal
- Dragonfly Tattoo Meaning
Dragonfly symbolism and meaning
Dragonflies are born in the water. Their mothers lay eggs in fresh water which hatch into aquatic bugs called “nymphs” or “naiads.” In this form, dragonflies stalk the water, voraciously hunting other bugs, small fish, and even other dragonfly nymphs. For large species, the nymph stage can last for as long as five years and may include several different stages. In their fully metamorphosed dragonfly forms, however, dragonflies live for only a few months at most. (3)
Dragonflies may represent, growth, transformation, impermanence, ephemerality, or adolescence. Because dragonflies, both as nymphs and as adults, are such prolific hunters, dragonflies may also be connected with acuity, agility, and ferocity.
“Today I saw the dragonfly / Come from the wells where he did lie. / An inner impulse rent the veil / Of his old husk: from head to tail / Came out clear plates of sapphire mail. / He dried his wings: like gauze they grew; / Thro’ crofts and pastures wet with dew / A living flash of light he flew.”— Alfred, Lord Tennyson “The Dragonfly” (4)
Dragonflies are typically born in the summer and are most often found near the waterways and marshes where they are born. so, dragonflies are often associated with the summer season as well as nostalgia for the “halcyon days” of youth that one associates with summer.
Dragonflies mate by assuming a posture which is known as the “heart” or “wheel” posture. The male clasps the female’s head, and she curls her abdomen beneath her to form a shape which looks a bit like a closed circle or a heart. In this posture, dragonflies may be seen either flying or perched. Because of this, dragonflies are sometimes connected with romance, eroticism, or lust. (5)
Dragonfly Native American symbolism
Several Native American tribes consider the dragonfly to be a sacred or auspicious animal. Dragonflies are often connected with medicine and healing. (6)
In some tribes, the dragonfly is connected with the element of water and is thought to symbolize the coming of much-needed rain. Amongst other tribes, dragonflies are used as symbols of protection and invincibility. (7)
According to Zuni mythology, the dragonfly was a messenger of the gods. In this myth, a young boy and his sister were left behind by their tribe when hard times came and the people chose to search for a new land. The boy’s sister was distraught at having been abandoned so callously, and neither child knew how they would manage to survive on their own. Wanting to console his heartbroken sister, the boy crafted a doll out of corn and grass. The doll was insect-shaped and sprung to life as soon as the boy had made it. The doll told the children that he was a messenger of the gods and that the two were destined to be great leaders. When the girl grew ill, the corn insect flew away to get help from the gods and was able to restore her to health. He helped the two children find food and grow strong while the land recovered until eventually all was green again and the tribe which had left them returned. The boy and his sister became wise leaders. The corn insect was lonely and asked the boy to make another of his kind. The boy agreed and from the two corn dolls came the first dragonflies. From that day forth, the Zuni people held the dragonfly to be a messenger of the gods and a sacred symbol of summer, protection, and life-giving rain. (8)(9)
Dragonfly Christianity symbolism
Dragonflies are not present in the Bible, but the Christian symbolism of these insects might be found in the beautiful ways in which they transform from something plain and hidden to something vibrant which catches the light. This is symbolic to Christians in the sense of becoming transformed and colorful when the light of Lord Jesus shines upon them.
Matthew 5:14-16 states:
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and hide it under the bowl. Instead, they put it on a stand so its light can be shone upon everybody so that the light can shine and illuminate everyone. In the same way, let your light shine upon men. Let them see and praise your good deeds. You, in turn, praise the Father in heaven.” (10)
Further symbolic meanings for the dragonfly might include heaven and the afterlife. Dragonflies spend much of their lives in murky water, likely never knowing how bright the world above them can be. When the transform, they emerge into a new world full of light and color. (11)
Dragonfly Celtic symbolism
In Celtic traditions, dragonflies symbolize femininity, beauty, rebirth, and transitions. The myth of the Wooing of Etain is an Irish story which includes a beautiful jewel-colored fly which begins as water, becomes a worm, and then becomes a ‘fly’ before being reborn as a woman. The wooing of Etain follows the tail of an otherworldly gentleman named Midir who is enchanted by the beauty of a young maiden named Etain. When Midir is wounded at the home of his foster son, he is given Etain in marriage as repayment for his injury. Midir and Etain love each other deeply, but Midir’s first wife is deeply jealous and is gifted in witchcraft and sorcery. Out of spite, she transforms Etain into a pool of water, but Midir keeps this water by his side still. Then she transforms her into a worm, but Midir treasures the worm as well. Finally, Etain is made into a giant jewel-colored fly which Midir cherishes. The witch is so angry that she conjures a great wind to blow Etain away from Midir. In this form, Etain is blown into the goblet of her own mother who accidentally drinks the fly. From this, Etain’s mother becomes pregnant and gives birth to Etain anew. After much hardship, Midir finds and reclaims his bride. (12)
Thus, the dragonfly is deeply connected with the cycle of death and rebirth. To be with Midir again, Etain must live through the life cycles of the dragonfly before finally expiring in order to be reborn. Dragonflies represent life’s cycles and the transitions between each of them. (13)
Dragonfly in dreams
Dreaming of the dragonfly represents growth and change. To dream of one of these fascinating insects signifies that a major period of change is one the horizon. Embrace your growth and accept the challenges that will come with it. (14)
Dragonflies may also represent higher knowledge. From the watery depths of the marsh, a dragonfly nymph has no way of knowing what awaits it in the sky above. The light and color of the dragonfly signifies the enlightenment that is achieved when we allow ourselves to be transformed.
A dragonfly dream may also relate to the fear and dread associated with mortality. Most of a dragonfly’s life is spent preparing to transform into the beautiful whizzing creature which we all recognize. Once dragonflies assume this form, though, they are faced with the immediate need to reproduce before dying within a span of just a few months. A dragonfly dream may indicate fear surrounding the brevity and impact of one’s own lifespan. (15)
Dragonfly encounters and omens
Dragonfly encounters are often seen as good luck, however old European superstitions actually connect them with misfortune and danger. Called the “Devil’s Darning Needle” in some traditions, dragonflies have been thought of as assistants to snakes or to the devil himself. Old myths even state that dragonflies could sew shut the mouths of unfortunate passersby using their needle-like bodies. (16)
Of course, dragonflies are harmless, but they may still represent bad luck or superstition to some.
Because dragonflies are so vibrant and metallic-colored, a dragonfly encounter might signify future financial successes. (17)
Dragonfly mythology and folklore
Dragonflies are often found depicted on tombs, amulets, and charms form ancient Egypt. Adorning tombs, dragonflies were meant to aid in the transition between the worlds of the living and the dead. Ancient Egyptians believed that the Nile was a barrier which separated life and death. As insects which were deeply tied with the river’s waters, the Dragonfly symbolized death, rebirth, and renewal. For ancient Egyptians, death was not necessarily a dark thing and the afterlife was thought to bean important and beautiful stage of one’s life.
In Japan, the dragonfly is a beloved and significant symbol. They are connected with autumn and with the mythological first emperor of Japan, Jimmu. According to legend, Jimmu once said that the kingdom of Japan was shaped like two dragonflies mating. So, Japan was sometimes referred to as Akitsu-shima or “dragonfly island.” (18)
As previously stated, American and European folklore associates dragonflies with witches and the devil. (19)(20)
Dragonfly spirit animal
If the dragonfly is your spirit animal then you may be a late bloomer. People with the dragonfly as their spirit animal need lots of time to grow and change before they are ready to live as their true selves.
With patience, time, and experience, though, the dragonfly spirit is able to emerge as its beautiful and authentic self. People with the dragonfly spirit animal are sociable, focused, and ambitious. (21)
The dragonfly spirit animal understands that life is short and that, in order to truly enjoy all of its gifts, one must seize the day and live fearlessly in the moment. People with this spirit animal may seem extra spontaneous to friends and loved ones who are more routine-oriented.
Dragonfly totem animal
The dragonfly totem animal refers to spirituality and healing. People with this totem animal tend to have strong relationships with their own spirituality and are driven by their spiritual beliefs.
Seeking answers about the universe is just one pastime of the dragonfly totem animal.
It is through spiritual exploration that the dragonfly totem animal heals, renews, and rejuvenates itself. People with this totem animal can keenly sense the trauma of others and can be deeply empathetic towards the individual spiritual journeys that everyone undertakes. (22)
Dragonfly power animal
The dragonfly power animal is associated with vision. One of the most sunning features of the dragonfly is its large compound eyes. People with the dragonfly as their power animal are gifted with unique clarity and use their talent for foresight to choose the wisest course of action.
With the incredible vision of the dragonfly, the dragonfly power animal is able to be a creative muse and inspire artists, poets, and musicians to create exceptional masterpieces. In visual arts and fashion, especially, the dragonfly is a powerful guiding force. (23)
Dragonfly tattoo meaning
In most scenarios, dragonfly tattoos symbolize change and transformation. Seeing a dragonfly is symbolic of having one’s dreams come true. It also means that positive change or transformation is on the horizon. .
To a warrior and fighter, a dragonfly tattoo represents agility, power, speed, victory, and courage. It also symbolizes rebirth, immortality, transformation, adaptation, and spiritual awakening.
In many Asian countries, dragonfly tattoos are a symbol of prosperity, good luck, and harmony. A Japanese dragonfly tattoo may represent Japan itself or the mythological Emperor Jimmu.
Dragonflies symbolize many things- and as with most symbols, the meaning and interpretation of a dragonfly tattoo can change. Therefore, it is important to discuss your vision with a tattoo artist. Ask your tattoo artist to depict the dragonfly with delicate fine lines, gossamer-thin and opalescent wings, and slender body. If possible, ask to see sample photos of dragonfly tattoos – this should not be too difficult since dragonflies are a frequent subject of tattoo art.
Dragonfly symbolism is a source of light, color, inspiration, and joy. Call upon the dragonfly to fill your life with color and to remind you to soak in all of life’s beauty before your time on earth is brought to an end. The dragonfly is a poignant reminder that life is a growing process and that this journey is defined by the many changes which we all undergo on a near-constant basis.
17 thoughts on “Dragonfly Symbolism & Meaning (+Totem, Spirit & Omens)”
Hello, thank you for this lovely article. Beautifully detailed on each culture’s meaning of dragonflies and we feel it with written with love and delicacy.
It really made an impact on my choice to choose a dragonfly in my research.
We’re very happy to hear that you’ve enjoyed it, Najwa!
— Hailey Brophy
Writer @ WorldBirds
I had a huge dragonfly hanging upside down from a tree in my garden. I stepped closer and closer about to take a picture with my phone, as it was beautiful. And a small sparrow type bird flew right in front of my face about a foot and 1/2 away snatching the dragonfly right in front of me 😳😞 was wondering what the meaning/message could be?
A couple NIGHTS ago, a dragon fly kept flying at my friend on her porch. There was no water around (in fact, it’s Ne, and definitely in a drought!!) however, she’s a Scorpio. She hates all things insect like, so she wanted it gone, I couldn’t remember the symbolism of Dragonflies at the moment, but knew it must be significant. She’s dealing with a lot right now, and after seeing this article, I think she’ll appreciate her little visitor a lot more!
Dragonflies came to me in the year 2000. Of course I had seen them all my life, but suddenly they presented themselves to me in a way so surprising. Colorful and shimmering many flew encircling me in the yard. I held out my hand and ask to see one up close. The next day a dull brown Halloween Pennant crashed into my windshield and stuck on the wiper blade. After the first encounter it was amazing a dragonfly would light on me, my hands, head, face. During those early days I realized these delightful creatures were messengers. They came a lot! Big changes happened in my life. As I paid attention and began exploring the meanings it became clear the appearance of a dragonfly had significant importance. Sometimes a warning to be alert and sometimes a calling to be mindful of my spirit and find my peace. Nowadays when I see one and it comes to me, i know there will be a change whether it is good or stressful. Last year I went through a dry period and I was sad I had not been visited. Really is was a time for me to discover on my own. This year 2022, June 9, I got my visit. I was happy with joy. After the day was over I wondered what was on the horizon, because a dragonfly landing on my hand is conversation. I was babysitting for my daughter while she went to the doctor. My answer came days later with my daughters diagnosis. As devastating as the news was, there was also a calmness. The dragonfly had not simply warned me , but had given me the sense of “god is with you, all is well”. I wish I could post my pictures I took, I literally was telling the dragonfly I was so glad to see it again and asking it what was it there to tell me. I love dragonflies and they are absolutely my totem spirit animal!
I was walking toward my front door when a dragon fly flew straight to me, it pecked at the medallion I wear of my sons ashes then it flew up the tree. it was a beautiful feeling and often wondered what it meant. Now I know.
What does it mean when you come across a dragonfly exoskeleton I was sitting outside and in the chair next to me was a perfect exoskeleton I have never seen one so it was really amazing.
A gigantic dragonfly was desperately and boldly determined to escape the garag and kept getting its energy up to go full force through the window pane… he was becoming so covered in dusty old garage gunk and old spiderweb smutz amd refused to take my help… he finally ended up where I could reach him and was to too exhausted to escape my help this time. I cleaned him off scared to death that the dusty spider webbing woukd tear his beautiful wings… in the end I released my hold on his tail and he sat perched on the napkin -as if to catch his breath from frustration… after what seemed like three deep breaths he disappeared with the same houdini like speed of a humming bird. God he was absolutely amazing in size and out of this world beautiful in color. Okay
I have dragonflies visit me . One followed me a very long way from a swimming pool and tried to follow me inside my home it was Amazing!! A blessing
Hello! I just freed a dragonfly that was trapped behind a storm window. I have long loved dragonflies, and having lost both parents fairly recently (condolences to all those above who’ve lost loved ones❤️) and going through some struggles myself, was intrigued to read about the symbolism of transformation and be reminded to let in joy and light!
Standing in my garden with my 10 year old best friend, my beloved pet cat. He nodded and drew my attention to an amazing large coloured dragon fly ahead.
Later my cat passed away, i looked up the symbol and meaning of dragon flies. It gives me great comfort and knowledge. Nature is a very splendid thing. It guides you and supports you if you just appreciate it, look learn and enjoy its beauty.
I started to google after I saw many young dragonflies resting in my small garden. They look amazing & I feel nostalgic as I used to catch them when I was a young kid.
Hello been having dragon flies visit me since I lost my girlfriend to COVID it was not like they were flying high they were flying low like almost right in my face wow what a feeling it gave me …thru everything I’m going thru I’m finding strength and it’s beyond words …i made my wish and feel so good about my wish thank you to all who read ….make a wish please
Condolences on the loss of your girlfriend. I never thought about getting visits from dragonflies as a positive sign until reading Garth’s entry. I’ve had several this year hover around my car, and yesterday rescued one from inside a window at a restaurant. (and I’m not near water when I see them) I would like to think now the ones I see will be good omens for a court matter, our family home was stolen and sold under forged signatures.
I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. The reason I began looking up dragonflies is I really didn’t know anything about them and a few winters ago, my husband and I lost both our mothers. It was a very hard time for us. When Spring came we had these two beautiful dragonflies appear. If we were near the water we would get our hands wet and the dragonflies would fly around and around us and if we put a finger up one would land on each of our fingertips! They would just sit there and I truly believed they were looking us straight in the eyes! I told my husband that I thought that was our mothers coming to visit us. Neither of us had seen live dragonflies before then. Every summer they still come visit and land on our fingertips and stay for a long time. It was very comforting. Imagine my surprise when I read this article. May God comfort you and give you peace in the tragedy that you’ve had to deal with. Keep looking for your dragonfly. Her spirit is still with you.
I am watching a dragonfly now and wish its my Mom saying hello ..
Hi, I’m Jeannie.
I am a big lover of birds, butterflies and dragonflies. Thank you for your help today on the meaningful sightings of dragonflies.
– Smiles from Kansas.